Starring (the voices of): Edward Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Delroy Lindo
Director: Pete Doctor, Bob Peterson
Writer(s): Bob Peterson, Pete Doctor
Original Score: Michael Giacchino
Running Time: 96 Mins.
There is very little denying that as a studio Pixar exude anything other than excellence, even there weaker efforts really don’t deserve to be classed as weak, it is only that they lay alongside a great many masterpieces of not only animation, but film, that they could be considered inferior (Cars and A Bugs Life). Lats year saw the release of Wall-E and with it a new bench-mark in both film-making and animation, leaving their next film Up with some rather large footprints to step in.
From Pete Doctor, he behind Monsters Inc., there is very little surprise that Up, Pixar’s 10th full-length feature, is superb in every sense of the word, the animation whilst not as mind blowing as that seen in Wall-E is so characterised it bears more like-ness to the classic Warner Brother’s cartoons of the 1930’s and 40’s than anything Disney (Pixar’s parent studio) have ever done.
Opening with a heart-breaking montage showing how Carl Frederickson (Asner) met his wife-to-be Ellie and their subsequent life together, etching out key moments in such a way that in only a few brief minutes you really get a feel for how special Ellie was to Carl, and vice versa, it’s is no surprise to learn this montage doesn’t end quite so happily, picking up with the now 70-odd year old Carl a slightly grumpy old man who wears a hearing aid and needs a walking stick to get around. It is at this point Russell enters the fray, the little round boy scout with aspirations to earn his final badge (to help the elderly of course!). Carl sends Russell on his way after a non-existent bird…
We then learn of the impending demolishment of Carl’s home, and this is where both the flying house that has been so prevalent on the posters comes in, as Carl takes flight (in his house!) to find the place Ellie longed to visit in SOuth America, but what do you know, Russell ends up along for the ride.
This kind of buddy pairing has become the staple of Pixar with very few of their tales not having this dynamic at the centre, the fact that every time it is used their is a freshness that over-rides the potentially stale set-up is to be commended. It is in taking the risk of having a pensioner as your hero that this is achieved, Carl is a hugely likeable character and Russell the perfect foil. It goes without saying that lessons are learned and their are strong messages to be found about family and friendship, thankfully they are not hammered home and remain subtle to the point where they can be poignantly heart-breaking.
The key to Up‘s success however IS Carl, everyone knows or knew someone like him, he is yours, mine and everyone’s Grandfather, or element’s of at least. The fact that his house flies is really irrelevant to the film’s heart. So that is the deep and emotional “stuff”. As you may, or may not know, Pixar’s mantra is that for every laugh there should be a tear, well the tears are well and truly covered, joyous, poignant, sad, however they are matched in Up with possibly some of Pixar’s funniest ever moments.
Painted with the zany edge that worked so well in Monsters Inc., Up is consistently funny and rather than say Disney films for example the humour does not simply come from the side-kick characters, as fully rounded as Carl and Russell are Kevin (a giant bird) and in a stroke of genius that simply made the film for me, Doug, a talking dog. Given this ability by his owner (and the film’s eventual villain) Doug wears a collar that translates his thoughts, so between the “I love you master” and “hello my name is Doug” comes the sudden realisation he has seen a squirrel.
And just when you think it wouldn’t get any better a whole pack of talking dog’s enter the fray… I could go on, but that would be to rob you of many of the great surprises, though I do feel obliged to say that Up contains the best “dog” fight scene since Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit!
The only negative I could take from the experience was the seeming pointless-ness to the whole 3D aspect, rather than aid in the enjoyment, to me it often felt a slight distraction and in a film this good the need for any kind of gimmick becomes largely defunct.
Up is as funny as it is heart-felt, yet again Pixar have hit the movie jack-pot and crafted something truly special, only they could make a pensioner the animated hero of the year!